Professor Charles Lieber of Harvard University, who was accused of concealing his ties with China, was released on $1 million bail with a series of bail conditions attached. On the day of Lieber’s arrest, a Chinese researcher who went to Harvard Medical School to exchange studies was found guilty of smuggling and making false statements and not being released on bail.
Professor Charles Lieber Photo credit: Kris Snibbe/Harvard Public Affairs and Communications
Professor Charles Lieber, head of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, was arrested on January 28 local time and charged by prosecutors with concealing cooperation programs with China from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Under U.S. law, such felonies can be punishable by up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine, and Lieber may also be barred from applying for federal funding.
At a hearing on January 30, a federal judge issued a decision declaring Lieber on $1 million bail. Other bail conditions include handing over the passports of Lieber and his wife, disclosing foreign bank accounts, and agreeing not to contact Wuhan University of Technology, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Lieber is a world-renowned expert in the field dedicated to the application of nanomaterials engineering in biology and medicine. Lieber’s colleagues and former students expressed shock at the incident. And one of the sponsors of the investigation, Massachusetts Attorney General Andrew Elling, expressed his displeasure with the verdict in media interviews.
Prosecutor: Lieber provides false information
Federal prosecutors in Massachusetts say Lieber signed a three-year talent program contract with Wuhan Tech University in 2012, which earned him $50,000 a month, an additional $150,000 a year in living allowance, and a one-time $1.5 million lab start-up fund. The contract also requires Lieber to work at Wuhan University of Technology for at least 9 months a year.
In addition, Lieber has signed a contract to include Harvard University in a collaborative research project that will allow scientists from Wuhan University of Technology to visit for up to two months a year. The agreement was primarily intended to “advance cutting-edge research and development of lithium-ion batteries for high-performance electric vehicles based on nanowires,” prosecutors accused Lieber of failing to inform Harvard administrators of the agreement.
According to the American Chemical Society (ACS) news magazine, Chemical and Engineering News (C.EN), Harvard University learned of the partnership with Wuhan University of Technology in 2015 and clashed with Lieber. The indictment shows that Lieber admitted the partnership, but did not admit that he was paid for it, and intentionally claimed that Wuhan University of Technology used Harvard University’s name and logo without his permission. According to a public statement released on July 3, 2018 by Wuhan Polytechnic University Nano Key Laboratory, its partnership with Lieber commenced on May 18, 2009 and expired on February 3, 2015.
Prosecutors also accused Lieber of providing false information to Defense Department investigators in the spring of 2018, denying membership in China’s talent program and accepting funding from Wuhan University of Technology. According to official U.S. documents, Harvard told NIH that Lieber had “no formal relationship” with Wuhan after 2012 and “never and will never join” the China talent program, and prosecutors accused Lieber of misleading Harvard.
During the same time period with China, Lieber has been a leading researcher (PI) in at least 6 DOD grant projects since 2009, with a cumulative grant of more than $8 million, and a total of more than 1000 pis in at least 3 niH grant projects since 2008 million dollars. Prosecutors say the leaders of the projects must disclose the foreign funding they receive.
Harvard university has now asked Lieber to take indefinite paid administrative leave, suspend research and teaching, and not be allowed to enter the campus. “The allegations brought by the U.S. government against Professor Lieber are of an extremely serious nature,” the university said in a statement. Harvard is working with federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and is conducting an internal investigation into allegations of misconduct. “
Student evaluation: He is the purest scholar
Charles Lieber joined Harvard University in 1991 and currently has more than a dozen graduate and postdoctoral fellows in his lab. According to the lab’s home page, lieber’s team “focuses extensively on nanoscale science and technology, using the unique physical properties of new nanomaterials to advance scientific developments in biology and medicine”. He is currently a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has won the Wolf Chemical Award, the American Chemical Society National Award, and was named by Thomson Reuters from 2000 to 2010 as the world’s top 100 high-impact chemists in the field of chemistry. Lieber has also trained a number of talented material scientists, including the famous Chinese scientists Yang Peidong and Dai Hongjie.
Several of Lieber’s students and colleagues told the media that they were shocked by Lieber’s arrest. Bozhi Tian, a chemistry professor at the University of Chicago who was a graduate student at Lieber, told the newspaper: “I was completely shocked when I saw the news today morning. He declined to comment further on the incident.
Adam Woolley, a chemistry professor at Brigham Young University who worked as a postdoctoral fellow in Lieber’s lab, said he was “a talented scientist and I have always been very grateful for his teachings” I was very surprised to hear of these allegations, and I sincerely hope that this is some kind of misunderstanding.”
“Charlie is the purest scholar I’ve ever met, and I personally have 100% confidence and confidence in him,” Lieber’s former student, biomedical engineer Xiaocheng Jiang, who now works at Tufts University, told Nature. I believe there must have been a misunderstanding in the course of the investigation of this case. “I was shocked, ” said Joshua Sanes, a molecular biologist at Harvard University who has co-authored two papers with Lieber. I had no idea of anything about it until I read the New York Times report. “
Other Chinese scholars were indicted on the same day.
In an e-mail to a New York Times reporter, Rao said that “the judicial prosecution of Professor Lieber is a dark page of the international scientific community and an indelible stain on American history.” The research community was unable to find the original source of the reliable email.
Lieber’s first hearing took place on January 28, local time, when the judge rejected his bail application, and on the same day a hearing for another Chinese academic. Zaosong Zheng, a Chinese medical student and cancer researcher who was studying at Harvard University’s teaching hospital, was arrested at Boston’s Logan Airport on December 10 last year and customs found 21 samples of cells in his checked baggage back to China. Zheng eventually admitted to Customs that he had taken a sample of the research from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center laboratory and was ready to bring it back to China for further research in order to publish the paper. Zheng was convicted of smuggling and making false statements and denied bail.
A series of U.S. investigations of researchers with ties to China have raised concerns about the unfair treatment of Chinese-Americans and Chinese citizens. And a growing number of events suggest that these surveys affect not only the Chinese community, but also American scholars who have ties to China.